United States Array Chaplain School
NICHIREN SHOSHU OF AMERICA
Walter J. Keutzer
CHAPTER I. BUDDHISM AND NICHIREN 1
CHAPTER II. SOKAGAKKAI AND NICHIREN SHO k
CHAPTER III. THE PHILOSOPHY OF NICHIREN SHOSHU 8
CHAPTER 17. THE PRACTICE OF NICHIREN SHOSHU 11
BUDDHISM AND NICHIREN
Nichiren Shoshu of America is a branch of the Nichiren Sect of
Buddhism. I think that it is necessary to look at Gautama Buddha
through the eyes of the members of the Nichiren Shoshu if we hope to
understand this religion.
Gautama Buddha was bom in northern India about 1029 B.C. His
father was the lord of the Sakyas and Gautama enjoyed the comforts and
luxury of royalty. As a young man he left his home, wife and child, in
search of enlightenment. He studied Hindu philosophy and practiced
ascetism. Gautama did not find enlightenment in these. At the age of
thirty, he did find the enlightenment which he sought. In effect, he
realized within his entire being the eternity and universality of life.
He began to teach his new and revolutionary philosophy. Of the many
works attributed to Gautama, the final and most important of his works
was the Saddharma Pundarika Sutra or the Sutra of the Lotus of the Won -
derful Law . It is commonly referred to as the Lotus Sutra.
The Lotus Sutra is the most humanistic of all Gautama's teachings.
However, the time was not ripe for the teachings of this Sutra to be
understood by ordinary people. Gautama predicted that not until the
time of ultimate confusion, the period of Mappo, could this final philo-
sophy lead all people to enlightenment.^ This is the view of Gautama
^World Tribtme Press, comp.. The Buddhist Tradition (n.p.: World
Tribune Press, 1972), pp. U-7.
Buddha as set forth by the members of the Nichiren Shoshu.
The period of Mappo began about 1000 A.D. The world was in a
state of confusion. In Japan, many natural catastrophies occurred and
the country was in a state of political turmoil which lasted several
centuries. In fulfillment of (^utaraa Buddha's prediction, a monk named
Nichiren airose in Japan to preach the doctrine of the Lotus Sutra.
Nichiren was bom in 1222 and became a monk of the Tendai sect of
Buddhism. He was ordained a priest on October 8, 1237. After much stu-
dy, he became convinced that the quintessence of Buddhist teaching, and
the true teaching of Gautama Buddha is to be found in the Lotus Sutra.
If this teaching is followed in practice, it will without doubt bring
happiness and peace to both the individual and the nation. He believed
that this Sutra was misunderstood by the existing sects of Buddhism. On
April 28, 12^3, Nichiren stood on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean
south of Tokyo. As the sun was rising, he faced the sun and shouted:
"Nam-myoho-renge-kyo," which is the Japanese name for the Sutra of the
Lotus of the Wonderful Law .^ This is said to be the first time that
the name of the Lotus Sutra was recited. By this act, Nichiren was de-
claring then that he was devoting himself to the Lotus Sutra.
Nichiren 's adherence to the one Sutra brought him into conflict
with other Buddhist teachers and sects. He condemned the teachings and
practices of the other sects as false and dangerous. For this he suf-
f erred persecution, but his persistence gained for him a loyal following.
^Kenneth W. Morgan, ed.. The Path of the Buddhas; Buddha Inter -
preted by Buddhists (New York: The Ronald Press Company, 1956), pp.
(Hereinafter referred to as The Path of the Buddhas. )
He died in 1282.^ Until 19U6, the Nichiren sect of Buddhism was one
of many sects of Buddhism in Japan and had no special influence.
3"Buddhsim, " Encyclopaedia Britannica . 1972, IV, pp. 359.
SOKAGAKKAI AND NICHIREN SHO
In 1928, a school teacher named Ifekiguchi Tsunesaburo became a
convert to Nichiren Sho Buddhism. A close friend and another school
teacher, Toda Josei, soon followed Makiguchi into the Nichiren Sho.
On November 8, 1930, these two men started a study group which they
called the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai, the Value- Creating Educational Associa-
tion. Makiguchi had published two books prior to his conversion:
Theory of Descriptive Geography and Systemmatic Study of Value- Great irg
Education , or Kachiron . By 19U0, they had 3,000 followers. On July
6, 19l;3, Makiguchi, Toda and 20 other leaders were arrested by the
Japanese government. They had rejected State Shinto when they refused
to worship Araaterasu-o-mikarai, the Sun-Goddess and ancestor of the Era-
peror.' Makiguchi died in prison. Toda was released in 19U5.
Toda set out to rebuild the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai . In 1 951 , Toda was
inaugurated as the second president and the name was changed to Nichiren
Shoshu Sokagakkai. The Sokagakkai began to grow rapidly in Japan. Toda
died in 19^8 and Ikeda D4isaku became the third president in i960. He
still holds that office. Nittatsu Shonin became the high priest of the
Nichiren Sho shortly before the inauguration of Ikeda. Nittatsu was the
sixty-ninth high priest and he still holds that office.
1 Harry Thomsen, The New Religions of Japan (Rutland, Vermont:
Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1963), pp. 8U-85.
According to a member of the Nichiren Shohu office in New York City,
the religion was brought to the United States by Japanese girls who hai
married American soldiers. Many of these girls had been members of the
Sokagakkai in Japan. The Nichiren Shoshu of America organized in I9I4O.
The estimates of the Nichiren Shoshu of America place the number of mem-
bers in the United States at 200, 000. ^ A large number of the members
are not of Japanese descent.
Technically, the Nichiren Shoshu of America is not a part of the
Nichiren Shoshu SokagakKai. Both are lay organizations of the Nichiren
sect of Buddhism. However, the literature of the Nichiren Shoshu of
America makes practically no distinction between the two. Also, Ikeda
was appointed president of Hokkeko, the Nichiren Shoshu Lay Society, in
I96I;. Ikeda thus became leader not only of Sokagakkai but also of all
Nichiren Shoshu followers who do not belong to Sokagakkai. ^
The teachings of both Sokagakkai and Nichiren Shoshu of America
reflect a merger of the ideas of Makiguchi, especially as formulated in
the Kachiron, and the ideas of Nichiren Sho Buddhism.'^
It seems that the Kachiron was an attempt to findi-a philosophy
based not on an abstract search for, or thinking about, truth, but on
man's self-assertion and popular appeal. Basically, the Kachiron
taught that there are three values: goodness, beauty and benefit.
2World Tribune Press, corap.. Origins of Nichiren Shoshu (n.p.;
World Tribune Press, 1972), p. 32.
^Seikyo Times, ed., Nichiren Shoshu and Soka Gakkai; Modem Budd -
hism in Action (Tokyo: The Seikyo Press, 1972), pp. 1-2. (Hereinafter
referred to as Nichiren Shoshu and Soka Gakkai .)
^The New Chilts - Unfamiliar Religions (n.p.: United States Array
Chaplain School, 1972), p. 17.
Makiguchi advocated a system of values based on these concepts or values.
These are contrasted with the anti-values of evil, ugliness and harm.
Makiguchi went to great lengths to refute the Kantian concepts of truth,
goodness and beauty. For the man-on-the-street or on-the-farni, the terra
"benefit" has a better sound than "truth". "Benefit" has a practical,
down-to-earth sound without ttie vagueness or abstraction of the word
"truth". Truth was to be discovered and not created. Value could be
both discovered and created. Makiguchi made a distinction between truth
and value, cognition and evaluation. 5
Makiguchi 's system of values is a set of principles. By following
these principles an individual is able to achieve happiness by knowing
and following the real values of goodness, beauty and benefit. The con-
cept of benefit is described as follows. The pursuit of personal inter-
ests is perfectly acceptable if this pursuit does not have a bad effect
on the interests of other people. The striving for quick personal gain
at the expense of a more significant future benefit is condemned. So
also is the ignoring of the public good to achieve individual benefit
or profit. Makiguchi recognized the fact that people never act with
complete disregard of their personal interests. He felt that people
have a right to be concerned about their own interests, as long as the
public good is not harmed. As far as goodness is concerned, the good or
evil which a person does is increased in its effect because of his posi-
tion in life. The more influence that a man exerts on society by his
position or title, the more the good or evil is increased in its effect.
^Thomsen, The New Religions of Japan , p. 93.
"The New Cults - Unfamiliar Religions , p. 17.
To some extent, the ideas expressed in Kachiron are what led Maki-
guchi to Nichiren. In Ifekiguchi's pursuit of a supreme good, he turned
to religion. As he explored the teachings of Nichiren, he found that
the basic principles of his Kachiron and his philosophy were found in
Nichiren 's writings. He also realized that he needed the life-philosophy
of Nichiren to identify human life as the creator of values."^
^Seikyo Times, ed., Nichiren Shoshu and Soka Gakkai, pp. 127-128.
THE PHILOSOPHY OF NICHIREN SHOSHU
Let us now look at Buddhism through the eyes of the Nichiren Shoshu.
Buddhism is simply humanism. It is a humanism which has a philosophy
that leads to happiness. This happiness is both individual happiness
and happiness in a social context. ' Buddhism has as its basic assump-
tion a philosophy of peace. The Buddhist concept of peace is immediate
and practical for man. Peace is not man's goal in life but is the Budd-
hist way of life. It is a daily and permanent way of life.^
During Gautama Buddha's life, he searched for enlightenment. The
enlightenment which Gautama found was peace. This peace is more than
being at peace with oneself, immune to external crises. Peace is a con-
dition in which a man can involve himself to the fullest in society and
work for the betterment of society. In effect, peace is involvement . 3
As an aside, the concept of peace combined with Makiguchi's idea
of benefit seems to be the basis for Sokagakkai's involvement in politics.
In Japan, the Komeito (Clean Government Party) was a part of the Soka-
gakkai. In recent years, in order to enlarge the base of the Komeito,
the Sokagakkai has tried to disassociate itself from the political party,
at least officially.
1 World Tribune Press, comp.. The Buddhist Tradition , p. 3.
^Seikyo Times, ed., Nichiren Shoshu and Soka Gakkai , p. 32.
^orld Tribune Press, comp.. The Buddhist Tradition , p. 3.
Human dignity is very important in Buddhist philosophy. Human life
is an entity whose dignity is transcendental. Nothing compares with hu-
man dignity. No comparison can be made between the dignity of one man
and that of another man. This is the fvindamental groiind of equality which
exists among human beings.'^ A man maintains his human integrity and main-
tains his individuality by becoming a vital part of the society in which
he lives, by being with the people and in the culture of his nation. >
Man's life is eternal. A man will exist as he is forever and he
is destined to be bom again as a human being. This brings us to the
concept of cause and effect. The suffering and sorrow in a person's life
is an effect which takes place in a person's life because of a cause in
this life or in a past life. Suffering and sorrow is a retribution for
past causes. To escape from suffering and sorrow, one must get rid of
the things that cause them. Also, one must not place causes in this life
which will have an effect in this life or his next life. The way to
break the cause and effect cycle is to practice True Buddhism (Buddhism
as preached by Nichiren and practiced by the Nichiren Sho sect of Budd-
According to the Lotus Sutra, all life is eternal. There is a tmi-
versal, enlightened nature within every human being. In other words,
Buddhahood or the Buddha nature is not a being outside of a man's life.
The essence of the Lotus Sutra is that a man can cause the Buddha nature
to appear within himself. He than can change his own life and the life
^eikyo Times, ed., Nichiren Shoshu and Soka Gakkai , p. 33.
5World Tribime P*ress, comp.. Origins of Nichiren Shoshu, p. 3.
of the coTTmmnity in which he lives
"World Tribune Press, corap.. The Buddhist Tradition, pp. 6-7.
THE PRACTICE OF NICHIREN SHOSHU
The ultimate concept of Nichiren Sho Buddhism is the concept of the
Three Great Secret Laws which are: the True Object of Worship (Honmon-
no-Gohonzon), the True Invocation (Honmon-no-Daimoku) and the True Sanc-
tuary (Honraon-no-Kaidan) J
The True Object of Worship is the Dai-Gohonzon. This was ascribed
by Nichiren on October 12, 1279. Paper replicas of the Dai-Gohonzon
which every member of the Nichiren Shoshu has are called Gohonzon. The
Gohonzon is a graphic symbol of the universe organized in terms of the
Buddhas: the eternal Buddha in the center and the other Buddhas and
Bodhisattvas around it. The Buddhas and the Bodhisattvas are arranged
in a descending and an expanding order. This organization is outlined
in the Lotus Sutra. All the names of the Buddhas, etc., are written
in Kanji, the Chinese characters used by the Japanese. In the center
of the Gohonzon is written the Daimoku, "Nam-myoho-renge-lcyo".2 This
is the True Invocation. The True Object of Worship is known as the
Eternal Buddha as revealed in the Lotus Sutra. The diagrammatic form
is also known as the Great Mandala.3
Nichiren, shortly before his death, transferred the lineage of
^ World Tribtine Press, comp.. Origins of Nichiren Shoshu, p. 22.
^Thomsen, The New Religions of Japan , p. 89.
^Morgan, ed.. The Path of the Buddhas, pp. 3^6-357.
Buddhism to his closest disciple, Nikko. Nichiren willed that the Gohon-
zon should be spread and a high sanctuary be built. Nikko established
the Head Temple, the Daisekiji, at the foot of Mt. Fuji in 1290. The
Kaidan, the place for instruction and ordination, is also where the Dai-
Gohonzon is located.^ On October 1, 1972, a completion ceremony was
held at the Daisekiji marking the completion of the Sho Hondo, the Grand
Main Temple. The Dai-Gohonzon was transferred there on October 11, 1972.^
Religion, in terras of the Nichiren Shoshu, is not a mere system cf
speculation and conception. It is a system of philosophy, belief and
practice. Practice is the most important of the three." To practice
religious faith, a person must have an object of belief, an object in
concrete form. The Gohonzon is the embodiment of universal life. Budd-
hahood is represented by the Gohonzon. The basic practice of Nichiren
Shoshu believers is called the Gongyo. This is a daily religious per-
formance by which the believers pray to the Gohonzon every morning and
night. By Gongyo, a parson can relate himself to the Buddha nature. He
can bring forth this highest nature of life which is otherwise dormant
in one's inner self. The Buddha nature, this highest nature of life,
has its expression in a person's daily life. Self-renewal is a constant
necessity. If there is no self -renewal, a person will become senile in
spirit. True Buddhism has as its main characteristic a permanent move-
ment toward the development of human life. The practice of Gongyo leads
'^World Tribune Press, corap.. Origins of Nichiren Shoshu , pp. 22-23.
^World Tribune , October 20, 1972, p. 7.
oSeikyo Times, ed., Nichiren Shoshu and Soka Gakkai, p. Uo.
to this permanent progress. 7
Gongyo consists of three parts; chanting, sutra-reciting and silent
prayer. Gongyo begins with the chanting of "Nara-myo-renge-kyo. " If a
person is willing to repeat the Daimoloi with heart and soul and with great
respect, sooner or later he will invariably receive great benefit. If a
person wishes to turn religious precepts into practice, all he has to do
is repeat the Dairaoku. When one is uttering the Dairnoku, he is at the
same time combining the work with thinking and doing."
After five to fifteen minutes of Daimoku, the worshipper recites
the Lotus Sutra, or rather, parts of it. This is done in Japanese. Us-
ually, one of two chapters is recited, the second or the sixteenth chap-
ters, entitled "Hobenpon" and "Juryohon" respectively. The Lotus Sutra
embraces the highest teachings of the Buddha. These teachings have their
essential spirit in the Daimoku. The spirit is embodied in the Gohon-
zon. A person's practice of Gongyo is the experience of his faith in
True Buddhism. By Gongyo, a person imites his life with the Buddha's
life.^ From time to time during the Gongyo, the chanting and reciting
is broken and the worshippers bow to the Gohonzon and rub their prayer
The Nichiren Shoshu of America does not forbid a member to enter
the armed forces.^^ After talking to a member at the New York City
7 Ibid ., pp. U1-U2.
^Iforgan, ed.. The Path of the Buddhas , p. 3^7.
9Seikyo Times, ed., Nichiren Shoshu and Soka Gakkai , p. U2.
''%oah S. Brannen, Soka Gakkai; Japan's Militant Buddhists (Richmond
Virginia: John Knox Press, 1968) p. 153. (Hereinafter referred to as
Soka Gakkai . )
11 Peter Rowley, New Gods in America (New York; David McKay, Inc.,
1971), p. 198.
headquarters it seems that military service would be a matter of indivi-
Membership in the Nichiren Shoshu consists in the possession of the
Gohon2son. The practice of Gongyo is the primary act of worship. 12 Chap-
lains should do their best to see that time and place are provided for
the practice . There are no Buddhist chaplains in the armed forces of the
In case of death, the performance of the funeral ceremony is to be
conducted in a prescribed manner. A chaplain should contact a local lead-
er of the Nichiren Shoshu to make arrangements for the funeral ceremony. ^3
Marriage should be conducted in the presence of a priest, although
this is not absolutely necessary. Since Nichiren Shoshu of America is
a lay organization, it does not have its own priests. The priests of
the Nichiren Sho sect of Buddhism are the priests of the Nichiren Shoshu
of America.^ ^
The international president of Nichiren Shoshu Lay Society and of
Nichiren Shoshu Sokagakkai is Ikeda Daisaku. The national headquarters
of Nichiren Shoshu of America is a 13^1 Ocean Front, Santa Monica, CA.
The national director is George M. Williams. He is also the publisher
and editor-in-chief of the official newspaper. World Tribune . ''^ The na-
tional headquarters has jurisdiction over all of North America, includ-
ing the U.S., Canada and Mexico. There are ten regional headquarters
with their respective leaders. The regional groups have jurisdiction
"i^ The New Cults - Unfamiliar Religions , p. 18.
'^Brannen, Soka Gakkai , p. 16.
"I^World Tribune, October 2$, 1972, pp. 2-3.
over chapters and branches within their limits. One of the regional
headquarters is in New York City, at 2^0 W. 57th Street, Suite 521. I^
To locate a Nichiren Shoshu of America group, consult the local
telephone directory under the listing "Nichiren Shoshu of America."
You may also consult the national office.
'' "The New Cults - Unfamiliar Religions , p. T8.
Brannen, Noah S. Soka Gakkai; Japan's Militant Buddhists . Richmond,
Virginial John Knox Press, 1960.
"Buddhism." Encyclopaedia Britannica . 1972. Vol. 17.
Morgan, Kenneth W. , ed. The Path of the Buddhas; Buddha Interpreted
by Buddhists . New York: The Ronald Press Company, 1956.
The New Cults - Unfamiliar Religions . N.p.: United States Army Chap-
lain School, 1972.
Rowley, Peter. New Gods in America . New York: David McKay, Inc.,
Seikyo Times, ed. Nichiren Shoshu and Soka Gakkai; Modem Buddhism in
Action . Tokyo: The Seikyo Press, 1972.
Thorasen, Harry. The New Religions of Japan . Rutland, Vermont: Charles
E. Tuttle Company, 1963.
World Tribtine , October 20, 2^, 1972.
World Tribune Press, comp. Origins of Nichiren Shoshu . N.p.; World
Tribune Press, 1972.
World Tribune Press, comp. The Buddhist Tradition . N.p.: World Tri-
bune Press, 1972.
WALTER J. KEUTZER
Chaplain (MAJ), USA
(1U April 1973)